Postscript and Donation Update
Welcome back from what was hopefully a wonderful half term. Following our return from the amazing Ghana trip we received great news that we would be grateful if you could share with students and tutees.
Before we said goodbye to the staff of Fast Track College we Were able to hand over the non uniform money raised by our students before Christmas.
The staff were overwhelmed with the donation and we agreed that it should be used to improve some aspect of the water problems faced by the school. Within a day we had received photos of a 4000 litre water store and pump and well digging to ensure the students don’t have to spend more than an hour a day just fetching water from a well.
Medasi from all the students of Fast Track College!
Mr Macdonald, Mrs Hoque, Kamil, Finley and Dan.
Again. Jam-packed. Yesterday (Friday) we embarked on a Ghanaian “excursion” - or as we call it, a school-trip. Scheduled to leave at 9AM, naturally we left at 10, in a very full minivan and some disgruntled students made to go on the bus behind.
First stop was the Manhiya Palace. The home of the Ashanti King had masses of history, all explained by a great museum guide to us and the students of Fast Track College.
Next, we went to the Baba Yara Football Stadium, named after a famous Kotoko Asante footballer (“Baba Yara”). The heat was unbelievable, as was the stadium; with a 40,000 capacity and a running-track circling the field.
After that, we headed on an exhausting drive to Lake Bosomtwi, the largest natural lake in Western Africa. Created by a meteor strike over 1 million years ago, the perfectly circular lake was a wonderful thing to see. We took a boat out across the lake and enjoyed the picturesque landscapes - while the boat engine struggled to hold up!
After we had our dinner, we had a School Council meeting with the Fast Track School Council, we explored the ways we could make the bond between Longdean and Fast Track College even stronger, and laughed over the differences in our behavioural policies!
After that, we resumed our exhausting bus journey on our return home. The 35°c heat did not serve us well inside a packed minivan, Finley was very uncomfortable!
That brought an end to another fantastic day in Ghana. Certainly a more relaxed day than Thursday, but nevertheless just as fulfilling.
Saturday started off calmly with a visit to a typical Ghanaian farming village. We saw very few houses but a Mosque, a church, a primary school and two shops! A real community hub. We then visited a farm that had a student from Fast Track who had just won a place at University to become a business teacher. The farm had it all. A small compound for the extended family, an area for the goats, a well, its own Mosque, a cooking area, and an amazing array of plants and chickens and even ducks. They were growing cocoa as do most farmers in this region. They also grow cola nut, tobacco, avocado pears, pineapples, oranges, paw paw, papaya, coconut, to name a few. The farmer also had a nursery to grow and sell cocoa seedlings. We then saw cocoa drying on the next village and were invited to try it my the local Imam. We then saw the cocoa stores in Bedomase. The men there showed us their lifting skills. Each cocoa bag sent to the port weighs 67kilos and the workers simply flip these huge weights onto their shoulder.
At lunch we had the joy of watching premier league football in an open air restaurant with many other GhanaianArsenal and Spurs fans. Every game is shown live, even at 3 o’clock on a Saturday..
We then went to the Fast Track College to look at the land where they hoped to expand if the chiefs are able to grant them the land. We were able to visit the cramped dormitories - one of which slept 30 students with no fan! We saw that each group of boys and girls have two shower areas each. These include a room with a hole and a bucket. The toilet is even more of a lesson. There is a hut outside the school building which has a hole in the floor and a bin for paper. This is for 370 students. The water source for all students is a very deep well with a long rope and a bucket attached. All water used in school comes from this. We have been able to donate the money raised by our last international schools non uniform day to support the water and sanitation issues at Fast Track College and the whole community is very grateful for this support.
After another wonderful meal of chicken and fried rice, we returned to the school for some evening entertainment. We started by being presented with framed “citations” (a framed message of appreciation for the work us, and Longdean, have done in retaining the link between the two schools). This was followed by what felt like a school carnival. In seemingly Ghanaian fashion, we couldn’t go a day without being swept up in the music and dancing. After the Fast Track prefects read out our citation message, we were presented with a traditional Ghanaian dashiki and a scarf to accompany. Then the dancing resumed, and it continued for over an hour!
Students of Fast Track College, children and parents all came together to celebrate the work that Longdean and Fast Track have done in fostering a special link between the two communities so far apart.
It was a phenomenal experience, and one we will certainly never forget.
Sunday was our final day in Ghana and it was time to say farewell to the staff and students - and not without a few tears! We had planned to fly back to Accra but there were no flights available so it was back on the VIP bus! We arrived in Accra to be greeted by Mickey and had a couple of hours to buy gifts and see the sights. The craft market was an experience; we were followed the whole way by a crowd of sellers desperate to sell us their wares, each of whom were offended if we did not buy anything from them. However Mickey’s amazing bargaining skills ensured we got what we wanted for a fair price. Always take a local when souvenir shopping in Ghana!
We just had time for a quick visit to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Gardens (honouring the first president of an independent Ghana) and independence square before being dropped at the airport. After the final goodbyes and round of photos we headed for our flight - and a return to the cold of a British winter.
Happy half term everyone!
Today was another jam-packed day.
We started off visiting the government hospital in Agona, where Fast Track Collage donated some supplies. We were given a guided tour of all the spotless wards by the nurse manager and saw the outside baby clinic that included the weighing of babies from a tree!
We then went back to the Fast Track College where we watched a football tournament of all the schools in the area. We watched the first game, and then everyone was interviewed by journalists from Hello FM in Kumasi. From here we participated in the game for Fast Track’s first match, although we didn’t last long in 38 degree heat! The Longdean players acquitted themselves well despite the unEnglish conditions and cooled down by using the hotel pool in full team Arsenal kits.
We returned to watch Fast Track play in the final. It’s clear that Ghanaians are extremely passionate about football. As well as 24 hour premier league tv channels and everyone having an English team, in the final, one off-side call resulted in the ref being slapped, the player being sent off and everyone breaking out into a brawl! Nevertheless the game ended as a draw making Fast Track joint winners and Football was the winner as everyone made up and celebrated the school link and a shared trophy.
The kits, balls and projector donated by Longdean and Kit Aid were very well received, and the Fast Track boys looked impressive in their Manchester United training tops, which were actually donated by the club themselves.
The food saga continued with an amazing lunch of Ashanti Fried Chicken with fire sauce and fried rice. The groundnut sauce left many searching for their water bottles! A late night visit to Agona market to get a mountain of pineapple and plantain chips ended another long, hot day.
The staff, students and community in general loved all the donations from us and even some of the teachers were seen running off with a few at the end! We met the local council leader and the village chiefs joined us again and we presented them with a small gift to thank them for allowing us to visit.
Today will include a visit to Kumasi, the Ashanti King’s Palace, the Military Museum and the Football stadium built for The African Cup of Nations followed by a boat trip on Lake Bosomtwi, a meteor crater that filled to form a perfectly circular lake. We are then to meet the School Council to discuss future projects between our schools.
We hope that everyone has a good last day today and a wonderful half term.
Mr Macdonald, Mrs Hoque, Kamil, Dan and Finley.
Wednesday was the most jam-packed day yet. We started with floating. We were told that floating was a chance for the students to be a part of the community, and they certainly were.
For the majority of the morning we paraded round Agona behind a massive truck, fitted with large speakers, with loud Ghanaian dance music and a speaker chanting throughout.
Next it was Bedomase Methodist Junior High, but as with seemingly everything on this trip, a surprise is always round the corner. This time, in the shape of a bush fire. Mr Abu
At Bedomase and had a meeting with the staff and met the children. We handed over football kits, footballs, a projector and stationery to the school. The ICT suite looked in great condition, almost all of the computers were fully functioning, as they were when the ICT suite was opened in 2012. The school has made this a sustainable and self financing enterprise over the last 6 years.
The children seemed thrilled to see us, we were swarmed the minute we walked outside, and it stayed that way for a good 20 minutes. One told Finley he was 25 years old and asked “where is your wife?”
On the other hand at lunch in our hotel the response of terror and horror from a small child at the site of white people was quite amazing!
After that, we visited Mampong scarp, a sandstone ridge above the Agona valley. The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation has a TV station and huge transmission tower there. We received a guided tour around the facility and even went into a live radio broadcast where all listeners would have been treated to the sounds of our phone cameras clicking and the station manager’s own camera clicking back!
Our final stop was Fast Track College. We were presented with huge plates of pineapple and bananas from the surrounding fields which are sweeter than any fruit you have ever tasted in the UK. Then we were forced to eat another meal under duress. This time it was yam, plantain and red fish (Tilapia). This was accompanied by a fish stew hot enough to melt tar. It was delicious as have been every meal. The food is incredible but just keeps on being served!
The entertainment put on by the Fast Track students was incredible. We were forced, one by one to get up and strut our stuff to a traditional Ashanti dance. This entertained the students no end. Then we saw an amazing debate about technology being a blessing or a sin. The students argued their viewpoints with passion and eloquence. We saw incredible dancers, rappers and then a drama performance of great power to highlight Ghana as a country where all tribes, religions and factions work together. An exhausting but amazing day. More to come tomorrow........!
Mr Macdonald, Mrs Hoque, Kamil, Dan and Finley
Hello from Ashanti!
We have travelled for two days and finally reached our link Schools this afternoon. We flew to Accra from Heathrow over some amazing scenes over the Sahara (quite a change from the snow we left in).
We raced through the streets of Accra last night and stayed in a hotel with a mobile phone mast on the roof. The reception was quite good. We all took the VIP bus to Kumasi and saw the capital city chaos turn into tropical countryside. We were brought to our country hotel and then visited the chiefs of the village to announce our visit and ask permission for our work here.
We then saw the Fast Track College. The boarding students have a student week this week and had a sound
system up and running which was very loud and heavy on the bass. We wondered if you would like to discuss the school rules and sanctions with your classes? Should Longdean adopt such measures?
The chiefs and both schools are very excited to see us all on your behalf. Longdean School is a very important place in these parts of Ghana. We will send a few more photos now and another update tomorrow!
Mr Macdonald, Mrs Hoque, Kamil Dan and Finley
Y13 Trip to Iceland
by: Katie Dignum, Roxy Buckley and Ethan Molloy
Day 1 (01/03/18)
Our trip began with a smooth journey to Keflavik international airport, where we were picked up to go to our first activity by our trusty driver- Stoney. After travelling to Reykjanes Peninsula, we were able to cross from the Eurasian plate onto the North American plate along the bridge between continents. After this we were able to take a walk amongst mud pools and steam vents and view the vigorously bubbling Gunnuhver, Iceland’s largest mud pool with a diameter of 20 m. We then travelled to Valahnuker to see along the coastline, here we got the first surprise of our trip. Unexpectedly we got the amazing opportunity to see whales in the ocean, which gave us a great buzz when heading to the earthquake simulator. The earthquake simulator provided lots of laughter as well as a realistic experience of the ground shaking beneath your legs. Finally, we travelled to the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power station, which is the world’s sixth largest geothermal power station. On the tour we were able to gain deeper understanding into how the water from the ground is used for heating water and creating electricity for the capital city of Reykjavik. Not only do they create 400 MW of geothermal energy they are also working towards being the first 100% efficient power station in the world by making their waste products back into minerals in the bedrock. After all the great activities, we drove to the capital city of Reykjavik where we headed to Rosso Pomodoro Restaurant for a buffet of pizza and pasta. Finally, to end the day, we went for an evening stroll around the city which ended back up at the hotel where we got plenty of rest for the all the exciting activities we had the next day.
Day 2 (02/03/18)
When we woke up on day 2 we were surprised to see an amazing breakfast banquet (with cupcakes for breakfast!). We met up with our driver, Stoney, once again and were introduced to our tour guide for the weekend ‘H’ (we called her H as her full name was very hard to pronounce). Our first destination was the Thingvellir National Park, where Iceland’s parliament was established in 930AC, the site is sat on a diverging plate boundary, as geographers it was very exciting that were actually walking over a moving plate boundary. We then headed to Hvammsvegur, where the secret lagoon was! This proved to be one of the best activities of the weekend, relaxing in a naturally heated pool, with hot springs, geysers and fantastic mountain ranges as our view. The place had such a magical feeling. For our next activity we stopped at the town of Geysir, this is the home of the most famous spouting hot spring in Iceland. It erupts every 10-15 minutes, and was truly incredible. By this point in the day we were starting to experience true Icelandic weather… the gale force winds! Our next stop was Gullfoss, which some people may recognise due to it being the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland and it was one of the most amazing natural landscapes we had all seen. After a long day of fun activities and strong winds, we took the long drive to our accommodation for the night, on the journey we saw the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano (which some of you may remember caused a lot of disruption back in 2010 for countries all over the world!). When we reached our accommodation which was in the middle of nowhere, we were made aware that we were staying on the side of the Katla volcano, one of Iceland’s most active, for us geographers this was an incredible experience. After a good 3 course meal, and good company we decided to rest our heads, ready again for a fully packed day tomorrow!
Day 3 (03/03/18)
We had been very lucky with the weather on our trip so far and we woke up on day three to another sunny day, it was still pretty cold and very windy, but the sun was shining all the same! Our first destination of the day was on the south coast at Reynishverfi beach. We were able to walk along the black volcanic beach and see the magnificent basalt cliffs and caves. We did however have to be very careful as the Icelandic coasts have a lot of freak waves, (they call them sneaky waves!) which are very powerful and can have potentially fatal consequences. The beach was beautiful as the sun had only just risen. There were also several costal features that we were able to see which really helped to consolidate our learning of coastal systems. Our next activity was perhaps one of the most exciting, we headed to the Solheimajokull Glacier. Here we were taken on an exploration of the frozen glacier tongue. It was a wonderland of ice sculptures and deep crevasses; it was like nothing we had ever done before and absolutely incredible to hike across. We had two experienced guides who led the way, Thor and Pally and they also taught us how to use basic ice equipment like crampons and ice axes. After handing all of our equipment back and having a quick spot of lunch we were on our way to the next stop, Skogafoss. Skogafoss is another of Iceland’s impressive waterfalls- with a wide thundering curtain of water 60m high. From here we could also see the farms that were coated in thick volcanic ash after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. This led nicely onto the Eyjafjallajökull visitor centre. At the centre we were able to gain an insight into the impacts of the eruption through the viewing of an interesting documentary film and breath-taking images of the eruption. The centre also had a gift shop and some of us bought some volcanic ash from the 2010 eruption! After, this we began the journey back to Reykjavik, on the way we stopped at the Seljalandfoss waterfall, it has less power than the Skogafoss waterfall but was still amazing to see. After arriving at out hotel, we headed out to Restaurant Reykjavik, one of Iceland’s oldest restaurants, for dinner. The food was incredible, the chocolate pudding especially luxurious and was to die for! To top the whole day off we even got to see the Nothern Lights. It was a beautiful show of moving green lights across the sky and we were very lucky to see them!
Day 4 (04/03/18)
Sunday was our last day in Iceland and we started the day by spending a couple of hours at the Sundholl Swimming Pool which was around the corner from our hotel. It had both an indoor and outdoor pool heated geothermally as well as 3 hot tubs between 39°C and 42°C. It was a nice relaxing end to a very busy and activity packed trip. After the swimming we had a short walk to the city’s Cathedral, here we took the traditional Longdean geography photo as a homage to Mr. Goatley! We posed in front of the Leifur Eiriksson statue which commemorates 100 years of the Icelandic Parliament. Eiriksson is known as the son of Iceland as he was the first European Viking to reach the USA. After we had seen the beautiful stained glass of the Cathedral our driver, Stoney, picked us up and took us to Reykjavik’s American Grillhouse where we all enjoyed an amazing selection of food! After lunch Stoney took us on a tour of some parts of Reykjavik, it was interesting to see how the city differed from Hemel Hempstead. Our last activity of the trip was the Perlan 360° Observation Deck. A Reykjavik landmark- this futuristic building is composed of large circular tanks which hold the city’s naturally heated water reserves. At the top of the tanks there is a glass dome and an outdoor viewing platform. We could see across the whole capital as well as the surrounding highlands. It was a fantastic view and it was great to spot all the places we had visited on the maps located around the deck. It was now time to head back to Keflavik International airport in time for our flight home, we were very sad to say goodbye to our amazing driver, Stoney as well as to the country where we had all had such an amazing time!
To finish we would all like to say a massive Thank You to Mr. Macdonald for organising the whole trip and all our activities and also to Mrs. Beaumont for coming at the last minute and making our trip such a blast!